January 18, 2009
SERENA Williams has always transcended tennis as a global celebrity, but as she prepares for the four-way battle for the world No. 1 ranking at Melbourne Park from tomorrow, her rivals have begun chasing her in the fashion stakes.
Current rankings leader Jelena Jankovic has unveiled an airbrushed portrait fit for Vogue magazine.
Previously, only Williams attempted to look so good in promotions but her adversaries have started joining her in the studio.
The image makeovers are part of the WTA Tour's global "Looking For A Hero?" print and television advertising campaigns aimed at boosting the profile and popularity of women's tennis. The campaign is being rolled out in about 75 countries this year, featuring 30 players led by Williams, Jankovic, Dinara Safina, Elena Dementieva and Serbia's immensely popular Ana Ivanovic.
"Tennis is a premier sport for all women athletes and I think it's a great opportunity to have the best athletes, female athletes, get together and be part of such a wonderful advertisement," Williams said. "I was really happy to have an opportunity to be in it. I was more than excited to do it."
Serena's sister, Venus, is another "glamazon" with a stunning portrait. World No. 2 Serena and those directly behind her on the rankings, Russian pair Safina and Dementieva, can also overtake Jankovic at No. 1 at the Australian Open. Safina and Dementieva lived in the shadow of Russian stunner Maria Sharapova for years, but are forging their own identities. Nearly unfathomable riches are on offer for the greatest female player on the planet if her victories come with a bit of va-va-va-voom.
"Never before have we planned, created and invested in a marketing campaign of this magnitude," said WTA chief executive Larry Scott. "In many ways, the campaign crystallises how far we have come as a sport over the past five years. And it shows everything that we mean when we speak about the star power of our athletes and the excitement about women's professional tennis."